‘Both cars in playoffs:’ 23XI Racing clarifies 2022 target

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Now a two-car home, the room is divided at 23XI Racing when it comes to playoff experience.

Kurt Busch, the newest driver of the No. 45 Toyota, is a former Cup Series champion, who signed his name in 2004. Bubba Wallace, meanwhile, earned his first career victory last year in his continuing engagement No. 23.

“A goal for us is to have both cars in the playoffs,” team owner Denny Hamlin said Wednesday during the Daytona 500 media day. I mean, that’s a DNF away when you look at the position for who is a candidate to beat.

DAYTONA 500: Weekend schedule | Betting Odds | All time winners

Wallace finished last year’s standings with a career-best 21st place. He was not one of 16 playoff pilots in his fourth full-time season. His victory came at Talladega Superspeedway in Race 31 of 36 – five events too late for an automatic postseason ticket.

Busch raced for Chip Ganassi Racing last season and qualified for his eighth round in the playoffs. He placed 11th in the final standings, after being eliminated in the round of 16. His spot was clinched, facing Wallace, five races before the regular season finale in Race 21 at Atlanta Motor Speedway – his 33rd career victory in 21 full-time seasons.

“As a teammate, he listens and is eager to learn,” Busch said. “I mean that’s what every young driver should do. But it’s funny how the information gets passed to him, and he goes, “Hey man, is this something serious that I need to look into or is this something that Denny is going to overload for information on the data?” And I said that was a perfect question. Because Denny is such an analytical guy; he will eat them, sleep and chew them until they turn to mush. Bubba and his level, my level – we’re all working together to find that right flow.

SPEEWEEKS: entry lists, qualification procedure and more

Their first opportunity is Sunday at the season opener Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM), an event Busch has previously won (2017).

The 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway track is, of course, a superspeedway, which is the same type of track Wallace won last year. He also has a second Daytona 500 result on his resume from 2018, as well as another second-place finish from 2021 in the summer race.

“We want to make the playoffs and compete for a championship, that’s for sure,” Wallace said. “That’s what any driver will say. For us, it just became consistent. …Be more competitive, be more consistent. Get that speed out there, check out that new car. Everyone is discovering this new car, but make sure we’re on that higher level of people discovering it so we can have that advantage.

RELATED: Wallace on His Relationship With Busch | The Next Gen car completes its first day of work at Daytona

The Next Gen car could very well make the difference in the teams that will make the playoffs. It’s an unknown, because this Speedweeks is really the first competitive opportunity.

Wallace had the seventh fastest gear in Tuesday’s opening practice (47.081 seconds, 191.16 mph). Busch finished ninth (47.085 seconds, 191.144 mph). The two worked in a Toyota five-pack. In the second session, Busch and Wallace were 29th and 31st respectively.

Qualifying is scheduled for Wednesday evening (8:05 p.m. ET on FS1). The two Bluegreen Vacations Duels will take place on Thursday before two more practices on Friday and Saturday. Sunday then marks the official start of the season.

“Right now we’re tied for the lead in points,” Busch said. “And we intend to work through the first two months with a point-building mindset.”

About Joseph Minton

Check Also

Sports News Highlights: Soccer-Klopp praises Nunez as Liverpool win Community Shield; Motor racing – Timing is right for Vettel, says Red Bull boss and more

Here is a summary of current sports news briefs. Soccer-Klopp praises Nunez as Liverpool …